Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James Ainsworth

Second Advisor

Eric R. Wright

Third Advisor

Daniel Carlson


This dissertation tests if a young adult’s social location determines what type of information he or she will receive about sexual health from parents and formal sexual education programs. I also test whether sexual education mediates direct associations between social location and 4 protective sexual health behaviors: condom communication, consistent condom use, delaying sexual debut, and reducing the number of lifetime sexual partners. Using the 2011-2013 wave of the National Survey of Family Growth, I look for differences in sexual education and engaging in protective sexual health behaviors among white, Hispanic, and African American men and women ages 15-24. I find that communication about sex from parents and formal sex education programs varies by race and gender. I also find that direct associations exist between social location, parental communication, formal sexual education, and protective sexual health behaviors. However, all of these operate independently from one another, and I find that parental communication and formal sexual education does little to mediate the direct associations between social location and protective sexual behaviors. Policy implications, limitations, and directions for future research are also discussed.